Anchorage police on Monday released further details of their investigation and interrogation of Israel Keyes, the man who confessed murdering at least eight people before taking his own life in an Anchorage jail cell on Dec. 2. It included details about a cache of body disposal equipment in Eagle River and an incident in spring 2011 when Keyes planned to “snipe” a couple at an Anchorage park -- and almost made up his mind to shoot a police officer at the same time.
As new information continues to come to light about Keyes -- who was being held in connection with the Feb. 1 abduction and murder of 18-year-old barista Samantha Koenig -- police and FBI across numerous states continue working leads in an attempt to track down Keyes’ unknown victims. The only identified victims of Keyes are Koenig and Bill and Lorraine Currier, a married couple who were abducted from their Essex, Vt. home and killed in June 2011.
Keyes may have killed as many as 11 people, as he told investigators at one point that he had killed “less than 12,” according to APD officer Jeff Bell. FBI special agent Jolene Goeden said that they could not say with certainty what the total number of Keyes’ victims might be.
At a press conference Monday, investigators with the Anchorage Police Department and the FBI outlined some of Keyes’ Alaska exploits. Though police say they have no reason to believe Keyes was involved in any other Alaska murders or missing person cases, Keyes had apparently plotted to kill at least two other times in the state.
In the months of April and May of 2011, Keyes hid a shovel and a garbage bag containing Drano in the woods near a trailhead leading to the North Fork of Eagle River, a popular launching point for kayakers and rafters. Keyes said that he was “out looking for trouble” when he staked out the parking lot where a fee station and a restroom sits.
He said he planned to cut the chain holding the gate in place, then close the gate and lock it with a padlock that he’d brought along.
The plan, Keyes said, was to then “do my thing up there in the parking lot,” meaning to kill whichever person or people he selected as his victims. He identified a victim at one point, but decided against it, though it wasn’t clear what deterred him in that case.
The second incident came in the same time frame, when Keyes rode his bicycle to Point Woronzof in West Anchorage after the park was supposed to be closed. There, he identified a couple of people, possibly teenagers, and was planning to “snipe” them from the woods using a rifle and a silencer he had made himself.
“That one got really close, but then APD showed up and came out to tell people the park was closed -- it was about 10 or 11 o’clock at night,” Keyes says in a recording made during his conversations with investigators.
“Could’ve got ugly, but fortunately for the cop guy, he uh,” and here, Keyes chuckles, “his backup showed up, and I mean, APD is really good, all by the book and stuff.”
Both Bell and APD homicide detective Monique Doll said that Keyes would occasionally laugh inappropriately during interrogations when he talked about his plans to kill.
Keyes scrapped his plans to test his new homemade silencer and went back to his home on Spurr Lane in Anchorage’s Turnagain neighborhood, to his longtime girlfriend and his young daughter.
That silencer would eventually fulfill its malicious intent, though -- Bell said that the silencer was the same one Keyes used when he killed Bill Currier in Vermont soon after. Police were able to recover that gun and silencer from a reservoir in New York, where Keyes had dumped it, based on information provided to them by Keyes.
‘He broke his own rule’
The Koenig case, and these near-misses in Eagle River and at Point Woronzof, violated Keyes’ admitted mode of operating, where he would travel to faraway cities, rent a car, and drive hundreds of miles. One of the questions that’s come up is why Keyes would slip up and kill so close to home, despite a methodology that had allowed him to elude capture -- or even being tied to any of his crimes -- for years.
“He told us he was losing control,” Doll said. “He was losing the massive amount of self-control that he had.”
She said that Keyes had previously scrapped an attempt to kidnap or kill because of environmental factors. In one case, a woman had a large dog. He would also take the size of potential victims into account, saying that smaller people were easier to dispose of.
Keyes even lost control on the night that he abducted Samantha Koenig, Doll said. He told investigators that he only planned on abducting the barista working the coffee stand -- he didn’t know it was Koenig at the time -- if they had their own vehicle that he could use to abduct them in. Koenig didn’t have a vehicle that night, so Keyes put her in his own truck and risked that forensic connection.
“He had drawn a line in the sand, and he broke his own rule,” Doll said.
Looking for leads
FBI Special Agent Jolene Goeden said that tips continue to come in from around the country after the FBI released a broad timeline of Keyes’ whereabouts over the last decade or so.
Investigators are following up specific leads that Keyes provided before his death, including a body dump in New York in 2009 and four possible murders in Washington state between 2001 and 2006. The Oregonian reported over the weekend that authorities are looking for possible connections between Keyes and a 2005 double murder in that state. Keyes also reportedly committed his first crime in Oregon, the violent sexual assault of a young girl in the late 1990s.
Investigators continue to hope that the timeline will provide new leads into Keyes’ potential victims. Anyone with information on Keyes, his life or his whereabouts is asked to call 1-800-CALL-FBI.
Contact Ben Anderson at ben(at)alaskadispatch.com